National News

This Tampa Bay firm gives new meaning to 'break the bank'

Posted January 8, 2018 10:04 p.m. EST

LARGO

When it comes to a certain Oldsmar company, "break the bank" is more than just a familiar saying.

The company literally broke the bank.

A-Team Structural Moving Engineers was in the process of moving a former Anchor Savings Bank building in November when something went awry. The one-story structure slipped off the moving platform, causing one end to cave in and leaving the site on busy Seminole Boulevard looking like a California earthquake scene.

There the building sits, or rather, leans, the latest in a string of problems involving A-Team and its owner, Patrick D. Knapp.

"I don't know how he keeps his license," David Hughey said of Knapp, a professional engineer and certified building contractor.

Hughey, who owns a home near downtown St. Petersburg, hired Knapp's firm in 2016 to move a carriage house on the property about 50 feet and turn it about 90 degrees. It took A-Team roughly six months to get the house up on dollies, where it has been sitting for the past year and half with no further work, Hughey said.

"We hired a lawyer and tried to negotiate and tried to him get him to finish the job over time," Hughey said. "Every time we thought we were near an agreement he'd throw some red herring into the mix. I think he thinks once he gets something up on dollies -- and they're old dollies, not new equipment -- he can complete the work at his leisure."

Hughey said his experience with A-Team cost him about $20,000; he has decided to tear down the old carriage house and build a new one.

Knapp, in a brief phone interview, blamed the problem on Hughey: "He basically changed his mind after we got the building permit and said he didn't want the building anymore."

According to its website, A-Team moves houses, mobile homes, large buildings, historical buildings, even large boats and trees.

"Pat Knapp is a moving engineer who can do the hard job when others walk away," the website says.

But residents of St. Petersburg's historic Uptown District feared he had done exactly that as months crawled by with no progress on a ramshackle old house sitting high up in the air. The home's owner, Mark Taber, had hired A-Team in 2015 to move it from the Old Northeast, elevate it 10 feet and do other structural work.

"It's a horrible sight," Darden Rice, a St. Petersburg City Council member, commented last spring. Taber said at the time he had to call A-Team on a near daily basis to try to nudge it along.

Knapp said he has since finished the job, and the house now looks relatively normal.

State records show that Knapp has been a licensed engineer in Florida since 1989. In 2001, the Florida Board of Professional Engineers filed an administrative complaint against him stemming from problems with his master plan for screened rooms, garages and other additions to existing manufactured homes in Lake County.

Knapp, as engineer of record, submitted plans to the county that were "not properly engineered," the complaint said. The board reprimanded him and put him on six months' probation. He also had to pay $1,000 in fines and costs, submit a plan of "corrective measures" and complete a board-approved course in engineering professionalism and ethics.

And what about that partially collapsed building on Seminole Boulevard near a Home Depot? Valued by the property appraiser's office at $180,000, it was supposed to be moved elsewhere on the site but there was "a structural failure on part of the moving equipment," Knapp said.

The building's owner, a Winter Park woman, could not be reached for comment. Knapp said he's working with the insurance company on a settlement and a plan to "hopefully" repair the sagging structure.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.